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Irvine Park Railroad Easter Eggstravaganza 2014 & Giveaway

If you have ever been to Irvine Regional Park, you know how much amazing family fun it has to offer! Among some of the activities you can do are hiking, biking ( they even have bike rentals), rent paddle boats, pony rides, visit the Orange County Zoo, and even have a picnic!  If you’ve never been, you need to take your family there right away! 
One of our favorite things to do in the park is to ride the Irvine Park Railroad. In past years, we’ve gone in December for the Irvine Park Railroad’s Santa Train and festivities! 
This year we’re excited to visit for it’s annual Easter Eggstravaganza, which begins on Saturday, March 29th and runs through Saturday, April 19th! Children and adults can ride the train through beautiful Irvine Regional Park. Children, ages 2 through 12 years old, also have the opportunity to participate in an Easter egg hunt, hunting for eggs that are each filled with either candy or a prize.  
You can purchase tickets for your child(ren) to participate in the Easter egg hunts, which begin at 10:00 AM daily. Tickets will be exchanged for a wristband which will indicate a specific time for the egg hunt they’ll be participating in. Don’t forget to bring an Easter basket for each child who is participating in the Easter egg hunt. Irvine Park Railroad will also offer Easter baskets for purchase. Tickets must be purchased on the day of the event, in order to receive a wristband for the Easter egg hunt. Please visit http://www.irvineparkrailroad.com for complete details on the Easter egg hunts, including times and costs.

During the Easter Eggstravaganza, children can meet the Easter Bunny at a cost of $10.00 per family or group. This cost includes a picture that will be taken by Irvine Park Railroad staff and available for pickup shortly after the picture is taken.

There will be other activities to enjoy during the Easter Eggstravaganza including hay rides, a moon bounce, Easter cookie decorating, carnival games, face painting, picture stands and a lot more. Please visit http://www.irvineparkrailroad.com for full details including costs.

Irvine Park Railroad’s other annual events include the Anniversary Celebration, Pumpkin Patch, and Christmas Train.

Become a fan of Irvine Park Railroad on Facebook, follow us onInstagram (Irvine Park Railroad), view pictures on Flickr, and follow our tweets on twitter (@IrvineParkRR).
While at Irvine Regional Park, be sure and visit the parks other activities including Wheel Fun Rentals® at Irvine Park bike and paddle boat rentals, pony rides and the Orange County Zoo.

The park entrance fee – charged by the County of Orange – is $3.00 per vehicle on weekdays and $5.00 per vehicle on weekends.
Irvine Park Railroad opens daily at 10:00 AM. The cost for train tickets is $5.00 per person; children younger than 12 months ride free. Irvine Park Railroad is located at 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869.

We can’t wait to go to the Easter Eggstravaganza 2014! 
Emi already has her outfit and her Easter basket ready to go! 
Now for the giveaway….you can enter to win 6 tickets (which can be used to ride the train OR participate in Easter Eggstravaganza activities) and 1 Wheel Fun Rentals at Irvine Park surrey rental (excludes double surrey)! Enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter below! 
Good luck to everyone! 
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway open to U.S. Residence. No purchase necessary to enter. All fans have an equal chance to win, however, you must enter to win. A winner will be randomly selected via RaffleCopter and notified via email. No cash value. Winner will have 36 hours to claim their prize or a new winner will be selected the same way. Several different ways to earn entries. Not liable for unclaimed prizes or fulfillment. Sponsor has the right to refuse filling prize for duplicate winners from other blogs. Winner’s tickets will be mailed directly to home (or mailing address) and will not be available for will call at this event. 

photos courtesy of Irvine Park Railroad

Christmas Eve Morning at The Disneyland Resort With Our Elf on the Shelf!

What do you do when it’s Christmas Eve day, you don’t have to be at dinner until 6:30 p.m. and you still haven’t had a chance to take your daughter to see Santa yet? You head straight to The Disneyland Resort, that’s what you do! What a beautiful, sunny, Southern California morning it was, too! There aren’t too many places you can be where you actually NEED to wear sunblock on December 24th!

Emily & I decided to visit Disney’s California Adventure first! There was NO LINE to see Santa over at Elias & Company! We walked right in and Santa immediately struck up a conversation with Emily. As you can tell by this photo, she was mesmerized by him.

I’m pretty sure she’s asking him for the Frozen castle here.
I love everything about the setup of this Santa location. It’s just so old fashioned and Christmas-y and if it hadn’t been so blazing hot, I would’ve put Emi in her actual Christmas dress for the photo. Regardless, I think we got some beautiful pictures to add to her memory book.

Santa also had an absolutely beautiful elf named “Tinsel” that was helping him and passing out candy canes to the guests as they exited from sitting for their photo. I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of Emi with her also.

Seriously though, how adorable is this elf?

Emi and I also had another mission on our visit….we had to bring her Elves on the Shelf with us! Yep, they had written her a note, asking if she could take them to Disneyland! They told her that Santa had given special permission for Mommy to touch the elves to move them and take them to Disneyland. We just hadn’t had much time during December to visit the parks and since the elves were returning to The North Pole that evening, this was our LAST chance. The tricky part about this was that 1)only Mommy could touch the elves, because children DON’T touch the Elf on the Shelf and 2)We needed to be careful as NOT to spoil any magic for other children at The Resort. I carried the elves in our backpack and we took them out for a few photo opportunities. There was one incident when two small children spotted them and were trying to tell their mom they had seen them, so we just sat back and pretended not to notice the elves and then as soon as the children were long gone, we grabbed the elves, stuffed them BACK into our backpack and ran! It was pretty funny to have elf shenanigans going on!

Our elves INSISTED on wearing these buttons!
There are always a lot of “good parts” about each trip to the parks but on this particular day, Emi was REALLY excited about getting to ride in the front of Monorail Blue….WITH her elves! Since there weren’t any other children up there with us (who might’ve gotten freaked out), we could have the elves out of the backpack!
Patiently awaiting the front spot on Monorail Blue!
This is Disney Magic at work!
CM Manuel even let the elves help navigate, once we started moving and had to sit down!

It was such a great Christmas Eve morning at The Disneyland Resort! We are so blessed to be able to just run over to the parks for a few hours and be able to do something like this! Happy Holidays!

My First Blogger Conference: Blended

It’s almost a month later and I still smile when I think about how much fun I had at the Blended Conference. Blended was a one day event held in Tempe, Arizona at the Double Tree by Hilton. It’s a beautiful property to stay at and when you check-in you’re always greeted with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie! (They were so generous that we got a cookie when we checkout out, too!) In the case of Blended attendees checking in, each one of us was also given one of these adorable Shamrock Farms coolers, which were filled with goodies for our hotel room. There was a bottle of half & half, some milk, 3 flavored sour creams and chips to dip them in! Shamrock Farms was one of the generous sponsors of the conference!

Blended was my first blogger conference and I wasn’t sure what to expect prior to attending. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was excited to meet both of the SUPER ladies responsible for the great conference, mainly because they’re both named Wendy also! I just KNEW we were meant to meet! I was also excited to hear all of the guest speakers’ presentations! Normally, I’m not a shy person but I would say I was bit intimidated going in, just because I’m so new to the blogging world. Although I’ve been a blog reader for years, I hadn’t actually sat down to blog on my own until this past summer. I brought my best outfit, a pad of paper for note taking and a stack of my pretty new business cards that were designed by Tania Fischer Designs. (And seriously, my cards turned out SOOO cute! You’ll see them in this picture amongst some my new blogger friends’ cards that I got at the conference)

It was great to connect with some of the other ladies at the informal meet up on Friday night in the hotel bar. It’s always exciting to meet some of the bloggers in person that you’ve only communicated with online. It was even more exciting to chit chat while we enjoyed some Fairytale Brownies (another one of the conference sponsors) that were in a giant basket on the table! What a great conference sponsor to have! Mmmm!

On the morning of the conference, while I was getting ready, I may or may not have had a solo dance party in my room!  I’m not used to having a big giant room all to myself where I can make as much noise as I want! With my coffee in hand, I dressed in my signature color, pink, and headed over the conference room. It was just the best day! I learned so much from each of the amazing guest speakers, (click here to see the list of talented ladies who presented), talked with some of the conference sponsors that were actually present in the back of the room, ate tons of yummy food, and met so many other bloggers like myself. I also appreciated the break-out groups that were led by Wendy Wright of  Choosing Love and Arizona Moms Network  and Wendy Bevill O’Neal of Around My Family Table,  because you could basically ask them ANY question you might’ve had about the blogging world. As if all of that wasn’t enough, they then held a raffle for  some awesome prizes, including each of the centerpieces in the room.  I actually won one of the centerpieces which had been provided by Fry’s Food Stores! My daughter was ECSTATIC when I brought it home!

At the end of our day, we were each given two huge bags filled with even more swag that had been provided by the sponsors! (Click here for a list of ALL of the Blended Conference sponsors)

These are just some of the business cards I collected!
Two fun peeps I met that day: Heather from Brie Brie Blooms & Laura from Pink Cake Plate
And after the conference, we kept the party going over at Joe’s Crab Shack! As you can see, Laura & I are NOT afraid to wear a bib!
The entire event was just an amazing experience and I cannot wait to go back next year!

So….the word on the street is that next year’s Blended will be a 2-day event! I’m crossing my fingers that it is! To sign up to receive information about next year’s event, click here. I hope to meet you there!

Sometimes Instagram is MORE Than Just Pictures

I love Instagram. I love posting pics, I love interacting with others, and I love seeing the variety of pictures that people share. I love seeing pictures of families and fitness and crafts people have made and DISNEY and recipes….etc. Every once in a great while there are pictures that you scroll by and then scroll back to….sometimes several times. You don’t necessarily know the person but then suddenly you almost feel like you want to know them or at least more about them. Today I felt that way about a picture I came across. I have been following this adorable young girl (I’m guessing she’s in her 20s) for just a short while. She is in the fight of her life because she’s battling breast cancer! I don’t know her real name, I don’t know where she lives, I post supportive comments, but the fact that she’s on Instagram, not only sharing pictures of everything she’s going through, but also her thoughts about the cancer is both brave and extremely enlightening for the rest of the world to see! Today I started crying though when I read what she posted with her picture. It was a letter, actually it seemed more like a total PLEA to her cancer. I cried when I read it and then I commented something on her picture and then I read it again.

Here’s the picture she posted: 
Here’s what she wrote: 
“What’s on my mind this morning: my eyelashes. Cancer you’ve taken my hair, my boobs, my periods, you can take my eyebrows, my toenails, whatever, just please don’t take my eyelashes. Pretty please. I’ll buy you some ice cream or a cold pop. But ain’t nobody got time for that, leave the eyelashes. Thank you! Sincerely yours: The girl who’s going to kick your ass!”

I’ve been thinking about it all day. I feel like I want to know her name. I feel like I want to know her. I know I can’t help her much, but even if I can just encourage her and pray for her, I know it’s something. Some people think it’s silly to exert any of your energy on complete strangers. I don’t. Some people don’t quite get the power of social media and how it connects strangers sometimes. I’m guessing that the positive support she gets from her Instagram followers actually helps her get through some tough times, like her rounds of chemo.

Luckily, I am a great investigator and I was able to find her and ask for her permission to share. If you’d like to follow this sweet, adorable chick too, just go and look up @screamqueen13 on Instagram!

The Sweatshirt

I think my heart broke for a little girl today. Not my little girl, it was a little girl in my 1st grade class. What’s odd about the whole situation is that today I did something good to help her, but just doing it actually made me MORE emotional than before I did anything. I brought her a sweatshirt. It was a gently used, hot pink sweatshirt that Emi had outgrown. The sweatshirt said “GYMNAST” across the front, had some bling on the letters and a tiny heart as a zipper pull. I remember when Emi got the sweatshirt…one of her grandmas had taken her shopping at Justice. We love Justice. I’m sure my little student probably doesn’t even know what Justice is?!! She probably doesn’t know what a “gymnast” is either, nor will she ever have a chance to be one. (Do you see why my heart breaks?)

I’ve been teaching 1st grade for 18 years. My students are very needy, most are poor, and many are neglected. Before I was a mommy, I used to spend TONS of money on my classroom and on my students. Now I just can’t do that. After I became a mommy, I had to learn how to disconnect when I left work, because if I thought about how these children were living and compared it to how my own daughter lives, it was too painful. I know I can’t save the world, so I do my best when I’m there and even though I don’t shower them with gifts and treats, they are really appreciative of what I do for them. I sometimes think they even enjoy getting disciplined because after I’ve spent a day disciplining them they’ll still hug me and tell me they love me as they leave out the door. Maybe it’s just the fact that SOMEONE is paying enough attention to them and disciplining them at all? I don’t know?
So back to the little girl….She’s adorable (I think all of my students are adorable though). She’s adorable, as in a cute little face and a head of light brown wavy hair with bangs. She’s pretty quiet but when she talks to me, I cannot understand her because her speech impediment is so bad. (don’t get me started that no one has done anything to get her referred for speech because it’s BAD). She comes to school in her WAY TOO BIG uniform everyday. When I watch her walk out to recess, I can see the shoes slipping on and off because they are about 4 sizes too big. (I’m not exaggerating about this either). I recently noticed that she’s been wearing this GIANT women’s size jacket over her uniform. It’s something with pink and white and the arms are WAY long. Well, as the days passed this week, I noticed that the jacket would appear to be dirtier and dirtier each day. Like FILTHY. Most likely I noticed this because the sleeves were white but it hurt my tummy to see it, because in my mind, little all girls should be happy and cute and clean. (I worry about Emi’s finger nails and ALWAYS make her wash them before going somewhere) I just kept feeling ill that this little girl was sitting here, dirty at school, just trying to get by. I’ve had students in my classroom before who were labeled as “homeless”, I just don’t know enough about this particular class yet, since it’s still the beginning of the school year. So today, I finally did it, I remembered to bring in the sweatshirt for her! I couldn’t directly give it to her, so I put it in the office and had them call her up. She came back with the sweatshirt in her hands and within 3 minutes, she was wearing it…..AND SHE HAD THIS LITTLE SMILE ON HER FACE AS SHE WAS DOING HER WORK!

No one in the class knew, but I knew, and I almost started crying! I had to sneak a picture of her as she was proudly working on her Math, but I had a giant lump in my throat for the rest of the day and even as I blog this, I feel like I could start bawling my head off! My daughter is sitting in the other room, Face Timing her cousin and playing with toys while they chat…and I think about my little student and know that she’s sharing some tiny space with 5 other siblings and probably isn’t doing what my daughter is doing. I know she doesn’t have a soccer game tomorrow or have any sleepovers to attend. It hurts my heart to think about it, but I have to smile and know that I did something good for someone in need today. I have to remember that sometimes it’s the little things and in this case, the sweatshirt is the little thing.

Home Depot Kids Workshop

In our family, we LOVE going to the Home Depot Kids Workshop every month. These events are held at any Home Depot, are free of charge, and are a great hands-on experience. They’re recommended for children between the ages 5 and 12 and give children an opportunity to build a project by assembling, painting, and often using stickers as the final touch. I already have the 1st Saturday of each month marked on each of my pocket calendar pages, as well as my iPhone calendar. We try to be there right at 9 a.m. sharp because Emi always wants to be the first one! Workshop hours are 9 a.m. until 12 noon.

Emi loves wearing her own personalized, Home Depot apron to the event because, well, she IS my daughter and always needs to dress for the theme or the occasion! (I think I’ve taught her well.) If your child doesn’t have one yet, they can also get one on the day of the event AND put their name on it.

All children receive a special themed pin that matches the project to add to their apron, as well as a certificate of achievement for EACH monthly Kids Workshop that they attend!
Click on the link here to see what the next scheduled workshop is going to be and register!

Everyone Loves a Carousel!

My favorite kind of day is one where I can stop and enjoy the moment without being in a hurry.

Emi and I had one last “Mommy & Me day” before she went back to school. She usually has a vision in her head of how most occasions will play out so first off, she needed to get appropriately dressed up.

Our first stop, was the nail salon. With the start of 3rd grade being SUCH a big deal, she wanted to make sure to have just the right design on her nails (and toes).

I LOVE little nails and toes and wish I could get away with having something this adorable on mine!
Our next stop was lunch. Nordstrom Cafe is one of our favs, especially the tomato soup and kids grilled cheese! I can’t say that a cookie wasn’t also snuck onto our tray.
After lunch, we walked around the mall for a long while, getting back to school necessities. Although my little girl is growing up too quickly, I love that she still asks to ride the carousel!
Everyone loves a carousel!

1st Grade is Where It’s At!

Today was the 1st day of school for me as a teacher, the start of my 18th year! When I was first hired, I had JUST graduated with my BA in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in English-Spanish bilingual teacher. It was the year that California passed the 20:1 law and needed a MASS quantity of new teachers hired. For the first 8 years of my career, I taught bilingual first grade. This meant that all of the reading and writing and ‘rithmetic were all in Spanish. I actually really liked it and I LOVED all of my students so much. (I still do). Eventually, politics got kind of ugly about the whole “teaching in Spanish thing” and we became an all English school.
I still have the same type of students, I just have to push them even harder now. I sometimes think the general public only see my students as statistics….most of them are English Learners, all of them are impoverish, and perhaps many of them are in The U.S. illegally? I don’t know, it’s not my job to worry about that, because they are just kids and none of that is their fault or their doing. What I DO know is that my students are often doing TWICE the work of typical students who live in “regular areas”. Not only do they have to learn to read, write and do Math like all first graders are expected to do, but they also have to learn English too! Many of them succeed, some continue to struggle and, of course, some fail, most are doing it with very little or no parent support. I have hope for them though. This is why I keep going back to work there. I don’t live anywhere near where I teach. I pay $12.50 a day to take a toll road to get to work on time each morning and back in time to pick up my own daughter from school. Some days are harder than others, some years are too, but it can also be very rewarding. These students are so sweet and appreciative and make the job worth it!

Today I got a whole new group of kids. I can already tell it’s going to be great year.
Here’s some of what I see in my new students:
At first, they’re hesitant and unsure. It’s a whole new world in first grade!
I love that they are curious! They explore and question. They want to know it all!
Sometimes they’re observant. They sit back and take it all in!
 Teachers love when students are motivated, especially when they’re motivated to learn!
Today I met 29 tiny but determined new first graders! I can’t wait to watch them grow & learn!
Room 7 is ready for the 2013-2014 school year!

What Happens in the Teachers Lounge, Stays in the Teachers Lounge

Today was my first official day back to my school site for an inservice! After being off and home with my daughter for 10 1/2 weeks, I was kind of sad to be away from her. I do know that I’m more fortunate than most people though to even have that much time off at once. (even though teachers don’t get paid when they don’t work)

Of course, it was all temporarily better the moment I got a hold of this…..
Seriously though…everything is better with a donut….and some coffee!
My most favorite donut in the whole world is a sprinkled donut!
So tell me, what’s yours? *cue for YOU to leave a comment